For a while, there was legitimate concern that COVID-related revenue losses would result in a 2021 NFL salary cap as low as $175 million. Not only would it be the first time the salary cap has gone down since 2011, that would've been a massive drop from the 2020 figure of $198.2 million.
Such a huge dropoff in the cap would've been particularly damaging to a team like the Vikings. Although they're not in the same degree of cap hell as the Saints, Eagles, Rams, and a few others, Minnesota ranks 24th in cap space, with roughly $195 million currently invested in its top 51 contracts.
As it turns out, the cap number will still go down, but not by quite as much as was feared. The NFL sent a memo to teams on Thursday morning saying that the 2021 salary cap has a floor of $180 million. That's a $5 million boost from the previous floor of $175 million. However, the number could still wind up being higher. The final number "will be set following review of final 2020 revenue figures and other audit and accounting adjustments," according to the memo.
Brad Spielberger of Pro Football Focus and Over the Cap said he has heard from sources that the number is expected to end up in the $185M to $188M range. That would still make things difficult for teams, but not nearly as difficult as it would've been with a $175 million cap.
The higher the number, the better, as far as the Vikings are concerned. Factoring in their $4.5 million in rollover cap space from 2020, the Vikings' top 51 contracts put them roughly $6 million above a $185 million cap. That's still not ideal, but it's manageable.
Because the Vikings need to clear cap space before they can pursue free agents and sign their draft class, several veterans will likely be cap casualties. Kyle Rudolph, Riley Reiff, and Shamar Stephen are three players who stand out as possibilities. Extensions or restructures for players like Anthony Barr, Danielle Hunter, and Harrison Smith could also help create space for Minnesota.
They have plenty of work to do, but it would've been far more difficult to work with a $175 million salary cap than one in the $185-188 million range.
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